Eldon Street, Liverpool 5
Perhaps the most accomplished of E.W. Pugin’s ‘industrial designs’, built in 1860. Comparable to, but slightly earlier than Pearson’s St Peter’s, Vauxhall – shared features are the solid walls, high lancet windows and apsidal east end. Pugin dispensed with his father’s favoured rood screens and separation of spaces in favour of a large and relatively uninterrupted space, with maximum visibility. The building was described by The Tablet at the time of opening as ‘a complete revolution in church building’. This is a dignified but economical response to the need for accommodating a large and poor congregation under a single continuous roof. The church has twice undergone major reordering, but retains some furnishings of note.
Burke (Catholic History of Liverpool, 1910, p.123) writes:
‘In Eldon Street, the centre of a most congested district, Father Vanderspitte, in 1854, bought a warehouse capable of holding one thousand people, and its gloomy and unattractive rooms began the mission of Our Lady of Reconciliation de la Salette… He had to rely almost entirely on the pennies placed at his disposal by an extremely poor population, composed, without exception, of casual labourers’.
On 2 February 1859 the foundation stone of the present church was laid by Dr Goss and the church, designed by Edward Welby Pugin and seating 800, was opened on the Feast of the Assumption, 15 August 1860. The church is located near the docks, and was one of several built for the rapidly-growing population of Irish immigrants. It later became a centre for Lithuanian immigrants, who presented the altar in the Lady Chapel.
Originally a street separated the church and presbytery, and a raised covered way provides a link between the latter with the western gallery of the former.
Some of the earliest priests at the church were Belgian, a connection marked by the carved oak First World War memorial altar rails and the Stations of the Cross, both made in Belgium.
The church was drastically reordered after the Second Vatican Council. The sanctuary furnishings were removed (the altar rails an exception), a suspended ceiling introduced in the nave, and the congregation turned round towards an altar placed in the south aisle. More recently (2004) these works were reversed.
See list entry, below. While the church lost many features in the reordering, the fine carved oak Belgian altar rails and hanging rood above are noteworthy survivals. The pews, granite font, timber altar table and lectern have all been brought into the church as part of the 2004 re-reordering. The sanctuary area is unfurnished except for the tabernacle mounted on a pedestal at its centre; the walls are lined with new panelling and hangings by Sister Antony Wilson’s workshop. The 2004 reordering also involved the erection of an open timber screen at the west end to provide demarcation of this area as a gathering space, and a new sacristy and tea room under the western gallery. New stained glass window over Lady altar by Design Lights (2005).
Catholic church. 1859-60. Edward Welby Pugin. Buff stone with red stone dressings, slate roof. Single vessel nave and chancel with rounded E end, aisles under leant-to roofs. ll-bay nave has sexfoil clerestory windows between flat buttresses. West end has shallow C20 porch with large wheel window over and canopied, louvred opening at top of gable. Octagonal
bellcote has short spire and cusped lights. Aisle ends have sexfoil windows, other windows are lancets. Entrance at west end of north aisle has segmental head under pointed relieving arch; tympanum contains diocesan arms. Chancel has 9 cusped lancets and flat buttresses. Interior has
pointed arcade on round stone columns; high timber roofs. Extensions to east of no interest.
Listing NGR: SJ3443391643
Architect: E.W. Pugin
Original Date: 1859
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Grade II